I have been a member of many different internet forums. Some of them are more lax than others when it comes to disagreements or rules of conduct, but all of them have had a fairly good system of checks and balances to ensure that no single member or moderator ever over stepped their bounds. In all of my time interacting with various forums I have had many instances in which I ended up butting heads with other members or even moderators, but it was almost always in the spirit of debate and very rarely did any of these arguments or confrontations ever get out of hand. I know when to be politic and when to be aggressive when it comes to my ideas and values. sometimes it pays to realize that you will not change the other person’s mind or when a fight is just not worth it. With all of my experience in dealing with online forums I had never, not even once, been banned from a forum. I always sort of assumed that any banning that occurred was done with the utmost care and only after all other avenues of reprimand had been exhausted. A banning is an extreme tactic that I had seen employed only a handful of times and even then only after the offender had expressed zero desire to cease whatever activity was creating the issue. I believed in the ability of a moderator, any moderator, to set aside personal feelings and desires and to act as an enforcer of forum rules. Unfortunately all of this changed when I was banned from an internet forum for the first, and only, time.
I had been a member of the forum Straight Razor Place for about a month when I was suddenly banned for life without explanation and without having actually broken any rules. My banning came because I had disagreed with a moderator and backed up my disagreement with researchable and reproducable information. I had not used inflamitory language, I had not attempted to act as a shill to market or sell goods, I had not made any threats, I had never posted anything that caused any concern prior to the post that got me banned, and I had not actually posted anything that I would ever have imagined would result in a ban. I tried to post on the forum somewhat regularly, but really was just trying to keep up a respectable presence while I learned what I could to make my straight razor experience better. I felt the need to give back to the community that I had been learning from, so I posted as often as I could. I belong to two other shaving forums, so I really didn’t have a lot to say on SRP, but I made the effort. One of the things that I noticed the forum lacked was much information on various soaps and creams, so I posted a list of various US based artisan soap makers on the forum and invited others to contribute to the list. I included my thoughts on the products that I had used and what thoughts I could find in regards to the products that I had not used. I had posted this same thing on the other shaving forums with good results and figured that I could really help some folks to see that there were many options when it came to these under the radar products. All went well until a moderator posted a somewhat inflammatory statement that he found it odd that I would recommend products that I myself had not tried, that I would recommend products known to cause burns due to heavy lye content, and that I would post links to companies no longer in business. I was annoyed by this post because the statements were false and misleading. I responded by telling the moderator that: 1) I was not recommending anything, just posting a list. (I even stated this fact in the original post.) 2) Only one product had ever been accused of having an improper lye content and that instance had been, by all accounts, an abberation for that company, which had been dealt with and corrected. 3) Every last company that I had posted a link to was currently in business, I had either contacted them or ordered from them all recently and if he were to check the links he would see that all of their sites were up and running. What happened next shocked me. I had been away from the computer for maybe five minutes when I came back to see what he had to say. I found that my account had been terminated and I had bee banned for life with no explanation. I received no email, no warning, and was given no chance to defend myself. I was angry and surprised beyond belief. My first instinct was to do everything in my power to attack and confront the moderator in question and the forum in general, but I set that idea aside and simply moved on. After all I had not been a member for very long and I was not that active. I figured that any complaints that I might voice would be met as my one-sided attempts to smear a “well respected” member of the forum. I deleted the forum from my Tapatalk account and tried not to think about it too much. I chalked it up as a learning experience.
Yesterday a friend of mine, who is also a current member of SRP, contacted me to ask what happened to my posts. I told him that I had been banned and that they were probably archived. He then dropped a bomb: all of my posts, whether I had started them or not, had been deleted. All posts that had responded, even vaguely, to anything that I had ever said were deleted. Any mention of me or any “likes” or comments that I had ever made had been deleted. In essence, any evidence that I had ever even been a member had been completely and utterly destroyed. I was aghast. I could understand archiving the posts started by a banned member and even deleting inflammatory posts, but deleting EVERYTHING that I had ever touched or that even referenced me seems pretty extreme. I do not understand how a forum can operate with such a disregard for its own rules, nor how a single moderator can be given so much free reign that he is allowed to dub a member persona non grata for the simple act of disagreeing with him.
I know that some folks will believe that I have not presented the facts completely or that I must have done something else to merit a lifetime ban, but I tell you now that my accounting of what happened is accurate and as complete as I can make it seeing as I can not put copies of the posts up for everyone to see. A few months ago it would seem unlikely to me that something like this could happen at a well regarded forum such as the Straight Razor Place, but it did. I write this partly to vent my frustration and anger, and partly as a warning. Internet forums are not bastions of democracy and good will. They are, at best meeting places where good people can share their thoughts and feelings about certain subjects, and at worst tiny despotic kingdoms where people in power can mold and shape the narrative being told in any way that they see fit. Since my initial banning I have found many other former members of SRP who were banned in similar fashions, with zero notice and with no explanation whatsoever. It shocks and saddens me to know that I was ever a part of an organization that sees its members ideas and privileges as unimportant and that, instead holds its moderators and administrators up as the one and final say in all things. I will never again be able to look upon internet forums with the same joy. I have lost the ability to see forums simply as a place where ideas and opinions can be traded and debated freely, now it’s difficult for me to see anything other than landmines to be avoided and dictators to be appeased.